Provides advice on IPR protection, including information on the registration of patents and trademarks.
Last Published: 7/13/2017

Several general principles are important for effective management of intellectual property (“IP”) rights in Vietnam. First, it is important to have an overall strategy to protect your IP. Second, IP may be protected differently in Vietnam than in the United States. Third, rights must be registered and enforced in Vietnam, under local laws. For example, your U.S. trademark and patent registrations will not protect you in Vietnam. There is no such thing as an “international copyright” that will automatically protect an author’s writings throughout the entire world. Protection against unauthorized use in a particular country depends, basically, on the national laws of that country. However, most countries do offer copyright protection to foreign works in accordance with international agreements.

Granting patents registering are generally is based on a first-to-file [or first-to-invent, depending on the country], first-in-right basis. Similarly, registering trademarks is based on a first-to-file [or first-to-use, depending on the country], first-in-right basis, so you should consider how to obtain patent and trademark protection before introducing your products or services to the Vietnam market. It is vital that companies understand that intellectual property is primarily a private right and that the U.S. government cannot enforce rights for private individuals in Vietnam. It is the responsibility of the rights' holders to register, protect, and enforce their rights where relevant, retaining their own counsel and advisors. Companies may wish to seek advice from local attorneys or IP consultants who are experts in Vietnam law. The U.S. Commercial Service can provide a list of local lawyers upon request.

While the U.S. government stands ready to assist, there is little it can do if the rights holders have not taken these fundamental steps necessary to securing and enforcing their IP in a timely fashion. Moreover, in many countries, rights holders who delay enforcing their rights on a mistaken belief that the USG can provide a political resolution to a legal problem may find that their rights have been eroded or abrogated due to legal doctrines such as statutes of limitations, laches, estoppel, or unreasonable delay in prosecuting a law suit. In no instance should U.S. government advice be seen as a substitute for the responsibility of a rights holder to promptly pursue its case.

It is always advisable to conduct due diligence on potential partners. A good partner is an important ally in protecting IP rights. Consider carefully, however, whether to permit your partner to register your IP rights on your behalf. Doing so may create a risk that your partner will list itself as the IP owner and fail to transfer the rights should the partnership end. Keep an eye on your cost structure and reduce the margins (and the incentive) of would-be bad actors. Projects and sales in Vietnam require constant attention. Work with legal counsel familiar with Vietnam laws to create a solid contract that includes non-compete clauses, and confidentiality/non-disclosure provisions.

It is also recommended that small and medium-size companies understand the importance of working together with trade associations and organizations to support efforts to protect IP and stop counterfeiting. There are a number of these organizations, both Vietnam or U.S.-based. These include:

  • The U.S. Chamber and local American Chambers of Commerce
  • National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
  • International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA)
  • International Trademark Association (INTA)
  • The Coalition Against Counterfeiting and Piracy
  • International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC)
  • Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
  • Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)

IP Resources:
For information about patent, trademark, or copyright issues -- including enforcement issues in the US and other countries -- call the STOP! Hotline: 1-866-999-HALT or visit StopFakes 
 

  • For more information about registering trademarks and patents (both in the U.S. as well as in foreign countries), contact the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at: 1-800-786-9199, or visit USPTO

  • For more information about registering for copyright protection in the United States, contact the U.S. Copyright Office at: 1-202-707-5959.

  • For more information about how to evaluate, protect, and enforce intellectual property rights and how these rights may be important for businesses, please visit the “Resources” section of the STOPfakes website. 

  • For information on obtaining and enforcing intellectual property rights and market-specific IP Toolkits visit:   The toolkits contain detailed information on protecting and enforcing IP in specific markets and contain contact information for local IPR offices abroad and U.S. government officials available to assist SMEs. 

In any foreign market, companies should consider several general principles for effective management of their intellectual property.  For background on these principles please link to our article on Protecting Intellectual Property and also Corruption.

IP Attaché Contact Vietnam
Vacant
U.S. Embassy Bangkok
Foreign Commercial Service
Room 302, GPF Witthayu Tower A,
93/1 Wireless Road
Bangkok, 10330, Thailand
+66 2-205-5913
 

IPR Climate in Vietnam

Vietnam is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is a signatory to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. It has acceded to the Patent Cooperation Treaty and the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks, and in 2004 joined the Berne Convention. In 2007, Vietnam joined the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations. While significant progress on the legal regime for protecting IPR has taken place in recent years, enforcement of IPR remains inadequate at the street and market level, at least regarding music, motion picture, software and trademark violations. Most major cities in Vietnam are rife with pirated music CD and DVD shops. A wide variety of consumer products bearing false or misleading labels are also readily available in the markets, as are counterfeit labels themselves.

There are several enforcement agencies involved in and vested with authority to address IPR infringement issues. These include the Ministry of Science and Technology Inspectorate, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism Inspectorate, the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Market Management Bureau, the Ministry of Public Security’s Economic Police, the Ministry of Finance Customs Office and the People’s Court (Civil Court). Thus, there are no clear-cut lines of responsibility among these agencies. Generally, sending warning letters to ‘infringers’ or bringing civil actions to the courts has not been very effective. Warning letters that are not accompanied by a decision of infringement from the National Office of Intellectual Property (NOIP) are often ignored and court actions are lengthy and relatively costly. Administrative enforcement has been the most effective approach and is recommended as the first step for dealing with infringement cases in Vietnam.

Foreign firms, which have attempted to work with Vietnamese authorities to enforce IPR regulations at the street level, have reported some success. Several U.S consumer goods manufacturers audit black market and pirated product in the marketplace and attempt to counter it with consumer education and marketing.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



Vietnam Trade Development and Promotion Intellectual Property